This morning we were awoken at 5:45am by the staff at Sarova Mara hotel in the Masai Mara in order to go on our first safari of the day. Groggily, we walked up to the lodge in the dark to get some breakfast and see the gorgeous sunrise. Our guide, David, provided the group with coffee, tea, and scones for the morning journey, and we were on our way. With the roof popped open on our van, we were off to the Mara on our second safari adventure of the trip. First up were some more wildebeests, gazelles, and vultures, and a short time later David informed us we were headed on a mission to see some lions, elephants, and giraffes. David maneuvered our van in and out of some serious mud trenches and got us the shots we needed, all before 9am.
As the safari came to a close we discussed our next stop to the Olmalaika Home. Dr. Marcos would meet us at the hotel and ride over in our van with us to explain female genital mutilation, what brought the girls his way, and who inspired him to get involved. Dr Marcos had nothing but smiles for us, and his wisdom extended far beyond his years.
When we arrived to Olmalaika, everyone welcomed us with open arms and open hearts. The girls performed a beautiful song and march for us, and soon after we divided up to help them wash clothes, make food, do laundry, fetch water from the river, and make beaded bracelets. After we settled in, two of the older girls sat down to talk with Catt. Faith, at 12 years old, had been at the Olmalaika Home for about a year. She had come to get a better education because she didn't have the opportunities elsewhere. Faith explained the stress that continually took over her everyday life, the hardships of growing up without a father, and her hopes for becoming a doctor one day. Next, Jacquelyn sat down and began telling her story of how she came to live at the Olmalaika Home. At 14 years old, Jacquelyn had been a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) and her mother had encouraged it. In order to make money, Jacquelyn was subjected to FGM to get her ready for marriage, and to make her mother money. She had absolutely no say in what was happening with her body. Both Faith and Jacquelyn expressed their gratitude in finding the Olmalaika School, and despite all they had been through, both were so composed, positive, and excited about their futures. They expressed how clean feminine products would help them cope with the pain of FGM and all they had been through.
* picture courtesy of Catt Sadler
After Olmalaika, we set off to go see a traditional Masai warrior village. When we pulled up they were all gathered around and excited to see us. Immediately, the Masai men were engaging and welcoming, and it was clear they had so much pride in their culture and couldn't wait to show it off. William, son of the Masai chief, led us through the village and explained their typical days to us. He showed us a Masai home; built of mud and grass, how to make a fire, where they keep the animals, what their diet consisted of (milk, meat, and cows blood!) and where they kept all the handmade goods for sale. After serenading us with both a traditional men's dance and women's dance, we were free to shop and explore some more. Seeing the Masai in their native villages added to the countless amazing experiences this trip had brought, and really set in stone that "less is more."
Already extremely eventful, our day was far from over. After we got back from the Masai village we got ready for a traditional bush dinner and got in our vans to head out. We drove for about ten minutes and pulled up to a candlelit tent with a bonfire out front. We were in the middle of nature and all took a minute to look at our surroundings and breathe in the beauty of being in Kenya. As we sat down and ordered drinks, we were surprised with another Masai warrior dance! We all danced, traded jewelry, and laughed until they paraded out and left us to enjoy our dinner. Another fabulous meal later, we all reminisced on what a life changing trip this had been so far and how we couldn't wait for more.
Next up we would be headed to Rusinga Island! We may not be back to the Masai Mara any time soon, however I think each one of us had learned something about ourselves and each other that we will hang in to for time to come. Thank you, Masai warriors, for showing us how to be happy with so few "things" and to the girls of Olmalaika for showing us how to continually be positive and proud, in spite of the challenges life puts in our way. Asante sana!